Van

Acts of Love (2) detail 1

They bring their raspberry-coloured camper van to the promenade every summer. Parked halfway along the South Marine end, just beyond the war memorial, they have a great view. Just sea. Late August their little van is sandwiched between much larger ones. Theirs is tiny in comparison. Just one room really. A room that must be kitchen, bedroom, lounge and bathroom. Where do they pee? One morning I saw her open the side door and fling out a bucketful of soapy water onto the pavement. An arc of Flash suds. Lemony.

There are two of them in that van. A man and wife, I suppose. He is a large man with a white walrus moustache. She is smaller in frame. A busy little woman. She keeps the van tidy. When it rains they sit inside with the door ajar. When it is sunny they stretch out on fold away chairs or chat on the nearest prom bench. There never seems to be any rancour between them. They occupy the tiny space happily, it seems. They both choose to be there. What do they leave behind? Is there a house, or a flat? They are clearly both retired or out of work. He reminds me of a old country and western singer. It must be the moustache. He keeps it just so.

He takes up a lot of room. When he sits on the sofa-cum-bed there is barely room for her. His legs bow outwards, his large thighs spreading fatly on the upholstery. Sometimes she just stands leaning against the sink-cum-kitchen surface.

Once it is parked the van stays still, driven, as they so often are, onto those little yellow tyre levellers. How do they do that? They all use them, they have to, the road leans towards the sea. It would be like being at sea, always leaning.

There is something so neat about these vans. Boxes on wheels. Homes on wheels. They make him seethe. They block the view, he says. So selfish, he says. So selfish. I like them. I like the neatness. That beige sort of orderliness. The man are usually handy. They have tool belts. Though not the walrus-man, I suspect. She is the busy one. Can’t sit still. Neither of them read. They accost people, he says. See, he says, jogging my arm, see they’ve accosted another local. I think there is a little dog too. How do they do it? Don’t they long to stretch out? It pleases me that there is a certain peace between them. They appear content. No envy towards the flashier campers that flank them. They are happy in their raspberry home. Happy to be here. Happy to be them.

Driving home through Abergavenny we stop to fill up. I watch as a young man fills a bucket from a tap. He waits by the tap and unfolds his arms. Looking up he sees a crow on the roof of the Co-op across the road. He raises his arms to emulate a shotgun, aiming it with partly-closed-eyed concentration at the bird. Pow, pow, he shouts. He does this three times. And then grins.

 

Love and art – writes Mark Doty – those two towers can’t be knocked down, can they? Though you can, for a stretch of time, lose sight of them.